Taylor Kasik perused the aisles of Ace Garden Center on St. Simons Island late last month with her husband, Brandon, as the pair shopped for easy-to-keep plants.
The young couple was shopping for greenery to spruce up their island home, and already had picked out a cactus and a few other houseplants.
Taylor, who by her own admission didn’t have the greenest of thumbs, said she was looking for plants that would liven up the couple’s home, but wouldn’t take too much time to keep.
“I like plants that are easy to keep and real simple,” Taylor said. “Succulents are one of my favorites, because they’re easy to keep alive.”
As spring approaches and homeowners look to reclaim their outdoor spaces, more and more people are shopping for plants, patio accessories and other accouterments.
The Kasiks aren’t alone in their quest for easy to keep, affordable foliage. More than 17 million American households purchase plants for their home every year, according to the National Gardening Association.
Henry Hart, the operations director at Ace Garden Center on Demere Road, recently said more and more people are seeking low-maintenance options for their homes.
“A lot of people are looking at things like cactus gardens, and things like that,” Hart said. “We’ve also seen an uptick in urban vegetable gardens.”
With more than 15 years of experience as a gardening guru, Hart he’s seen increased interest in vegetable gardening in particular, especially during the last two years.
“Vegetables always take off, but it’s accelerated over the last two years,” he said.
For beginning gardeners, Hart recommended tomatoes and peppers as a good plant with which to start.
“They’re easy to do, because they don’t take much, but they yield a lot of the fruits of your labor, no pun intended,” he said. “They also lend themselves to self-diagnosis, so you can tell when they need more water and things like that.”
Of course, plants are only part of creating an enjoyable backyard. Water features like fountains can add a calming dynamic, and are available in a wide range of prices, Hart said.
“I think they’re a great,” Hart said of fountains. “There’s a peacefulness in having water in an outdoor space.”
Of course, he added, fountains don’t have to be extravagant outdoor displays. Homeowners don’t have to re-create Rome’s famed Trevi fountain to enjoy the tranquil gurgle of flowing water.
“Tabletop fountains are a nice option, too,” he said. “Some of them are small enough that they can be indoor fountains. It doesn’t have to be grandiose. Fountains are one of those things you don’t realize you’re missing until you have one.”
Plants and fountains are a great starting point for an outdoor living space, but having a cozy place to relax can make all the difference. Outdoor furniture can take a beating in the Golden Isles’ climate, and Hart recommends every shopper evaluate their needs before buying a set of patio furnishings.
“Whatever you’re looking for, realize that our environment is not ideal for outdoor furniture,” he said. “You have to seal or stain wood and metal will rust.”
The key, Hart said, is knowing what caliber of chairs and tables a consumer is looking for, and what the budget is.
“People either want something that’s really cheap, or something that’s expensive,” he said. “If you buy a couple of chairs for $50 and a few years later they’re worn out, it’s no big deal. But if you buy a $5,000 set of patio furniture and it’s rusted over in five years, then you might be a little ticked.”
No matter what kind of furnishing people choose for their outdoor spaces, Hart said it’s important for people to know “you’re going to have to care for the items.”
With warmer weather on the horizon, Hart said Ace Garden Center expects to do more business, especially as people are looking forward to putting Hurricane Irma and this year’s earlier ice storm behind them.
“We’re hoping to have a good, warm spring, and we’re looking forward to a busy season,” he said.